THE ERA OF LLEWELYN AP SEISYLL
By Darrell Wolcott
At his death in 1023, Llewelyn
ap Seisyll held the kingships of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth. The question "who was he?" has pretty much drawn a blank
from historians. His entitlement to ANY kingship has been assigned to (a) his maternal descent from the clan of Rhodri
Mawr and (b) his marriage to the heiress of Deheubarth. And his success in enforcing these non-paternal claims has been
attributed to his battlefield prowess. We have previously suggested  that he was first of all the legitimate heir
to Powys and only lodged claims to Gwynedd and Deheubarth at a time when neither kingdom had a male heir old enough for kingship.
Most of the tales written about
him in the "traditional" history of Wales (as opposed to "scholarly" histories of the 20th century) are based upon a version
of the Brut Tywysogyon, often called the Gwentian Brut, published by Iolo Morgannwg. Wildly anachronistic, that manuscript
was a forgery by Iolo in which he incorporated elements of the authentic chronicles and added much of his own unsourced and
often ludicrous version of history. He makes Llewelyn ap Seisyll the Lord of Maes Essyllt in Gwent and gives him otherwise
unknown brothers named Hywel and Robert. 
An oral tradition  which
has long circulated in Harwarden, the district between Yr Hob and Chester, claims Seisyll was governor of Harwarden Castle
"in the 6th year of the reign of Cynan ap Elis ap Anarawd". He and his wife Lady Prawst were only bit players in a tale
where a stone statue of the Virgin Mary holding a large cross fell from its mounting on the local church and struck and killed
Prawst as she knelt praying for rain to relieve a long drought. Most of the tale was about that "holy rood" which was
tried and convicted of her murder.
Unlike Iolo's forgery, this
tale at least puts Seisyll in North Wales but contains other fatal flaws. While there may have been an ancient
hill-fort in Harwarden in Seisyll's lifetime, no castle was erected there until the Normans built one over 100 years later.
And no "Cynan ap Elis" ever ruled in North Wales. There is a recorded obit for a "Cyngen ap Elisedd" in 945 but if he
was "ap Anarawd" then he was a nephew of Idwal Foel who ruled Gwynedd from 916-942; in the very unlikely event that nephew
obtained the kingship over the fully-grown sons of Idwal Foel, there could not have been any 6th year of his reign since he
died 3 years after Idwal. Additionally, Harwarden was, in Seisyll's lifetime, a part of Powys.
Credible reports of events
concerning Llewelyn ap Seisyll are woefully few in number. His first appearance in the credible versions of the Brut
was in 1018 when he killed Aeddan ap Blegywryd and his 4 sons. Aeddan is not further identified and no location
for the battle is given. While Iolo's forged Brut makes Aeddan an intrusive king of Gwynedd, historian John Lloyd
appears to partially accept that identification. While discussing various men who were not paternal descendants of Rhodri
Mawr but seized royal authority in Gwynedd and Deheubarth, Lloyd writes "Such a successful pretender was Aeddan ap Blegywryd,
who after a reign of uncertain length, was killed with his four sons by Llewelyn ap Seisyll in 1018".  He did not
say whether he believed Aeddan had seized power in Gwynedd or Deheubarth and he offered no source at all for his
The only other event
we know about in the life of Llewelyn ap Seisyll was in 1022 when, after the death of Deheubarth king Edwin ap Einion while
his sons were too young to succeed him, a man called Rhain came from Ireland claiming to be a son of former king Maredudd
ap Owain. The leading men of Deheubarth accepted Rhain as their king but Llewelyn ap Seisyll brought his army to Abergili
and rather easily defeated Rhain's men. Rhain himself fled the battlefield and was never seen again.
In our earlier
paper, we suggested that Seisyll had been a younger brother of Powys king Cadell ap Brochwel. Cadell was born c. 940,
became king about 975 and likely died about 1005/1010 although no obituary is extant. He had a single child, a daughter
Nest, who married a Powys baron, Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed.  As the king grew old without a son, the men of Powys appear
to have accepted his oldest nephew  as the edling or heir-apparent. If Cadell gave up on ever having his own heir
around age 55 (thus c. 995), Llewelyn would have been about 16 years old. His mother is cited as Prawst ferch Elisedd
ap Anarawd of Gwynedd , but we believe she was a more age-appropriate lady: Prawst ferch Elisedd ap Idwal Foel. Elisedd
ap Anarawd was slain in 942  and we place the birth of Prawst after 960. Her eldest son, Llewelyn, was born c. 979
When Maredudd ap Owain
of Deheubarth died in 999, we believe his widow, together with a young daughter, fled to Powys where she was received by her
sister, Lady Prawst. The new king of Deheubarth, Edwin ap Einion, was clearly hostile to Maredudd and may have even
been complicit in his death. That he might have been intent on eliminating competition from the house of Maredudd can
be inferred by Maredudd's base son, Rhain, fleeing to Ireland. It logically follows that Maredudd's widow removed his
daughter from harms way by fleeing to a sister who was the mother of the Powys royal edling.
That daughter of Maredudd was
Angharad, probably not more than 6 years old in 999. Thus, when Powys king Cadell finally died about 1007 and Llewelyn
ap Seisyll was coronated the new king, the young Angharad was a natural choice for his bride. Her royal bloodline was
impeccable and he had watched her grow into a young woman in his father's home. She was perhaps 14 years old and Llewelyn
about 28 when they married. Their only known child, Gruffudd, was born
Since Llewelyn was maternally
related to the Gwynedd Royal Family, we turn to events in that neighboring kingdom. Members of that family, in the person
of Idwal and Elisedd sons of Meurig ap Idwal Foel, had, in 994, taken back the kingship by chasing Maredudd ap Owain back
to his Deheubarth lands. Subsequently, a new generation of Idwal Foel's descendants came of age. Cynan ap Hywel
ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, whose father had ruled Gwynedd from 980 to 985, killed his older kinsman, Idwal ap Meurig, in 996.
But that man's nephew, Idwal ap Elisedd ap Meurig took Gwynedd in 1003 by killing Cynan ap Hywel. 
This brings us to the mysterious
Aeddan ap Blegywryd. We tend to identify him as a contender for Gwynedd, not Deheubarth. We think he was a Dyfed
man whose grandfather had been Alser ap Tudwal Gloff.  His claim to Gwynedd, we suspect, was via his mother.
She is nowhere cited, but if she had been a sister of Hywel ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, then Aeddan would be a first-cousin of
Cynan ap Hywel. His entry into Gwynedd to avenge the death of that man would restore the kingship to the lineage of
Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, which had since 985 been contested by the cousin line descended from Meurig ap Idwal
With the death of Idwal
ap Elisedd at the hands of Aeddan about 1017 , the only paternal decendants of Idwal Foel who remained alive were his
two young sons. Iago ap Idwal ap Elisedd was about 12 years old and his brother Cynan was about 3. Aeddan may
have invaded Gwynedd as early as 1014, but we doubt Llewelyn ap Seisyll would have waited long to act. His claim to
Gwynedd was fully the equal to Aeddan's claim and he was already a king, while neither Aeddan's father, grandfather or great-grandfather
had ever held a kingship. It may also have been possible that Aeddan was wildly disliked by the men of Gwynedd, and
they pursuaded Llewelyn to lay his own claim. He did in 1018, and Gwynedd passed out of the hands of its Royal Family
until young Iago ap Idwal came of full age in 1033.
Turning now to events
in Deheubarth, where Llewelyn had some vestage of a claim to kingship via his wife, we pick up with the period following Maredudd's
death in 999. Edwin ap Einion became the new king but he died about 1022, leaving both sons and a nephew, all still
teenagers. This would have been the opportune time for Llewelyn to make his claim for the Deheubarth kingship, but on
the scene came the man from Ireland. If we believe what this man said (Rhain), then he had the best claim to Deheubarth
as a son of Maredudd. The leading men did believe him and accepted him as their new king. But Llewelyn was
having none of it; perhaps his mother-in-law assured him that Rhain was no son of hers, so he took his army south and challenged
the "Irish pretender". With the rout of the south Wales men defending Rhain, and the latter's rapid retreat
both from the battlefield and from history, Llewelyn captured the kingship of Deheubarth in 1022. Irrespective of
the claim of later historians, he was the first Welsh king to rule over the three major kingdoms of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth. 
His rule was short-lived; he "died" in 1023.
Others have speculated
that Llewelyn may have been killed by members of the royal families of either Gwynedd or Deheubarth.  All paternal
claimants of those kingdoms in 1023 were far too young to become king; if they had a hand in Llewelyn's demise, it would be
years before they could benefit. We guessed earlier that the barons (not the royal family) of Deheubarth may have retaliated
against Llewelyn for depriving them of Rhain, the king they wanted.
in the Brut says that after his death, Rhydderch ap Iestyn held the kingdom of the South. That man was from Penfro,
Dyfed and probably a first-cousin of Edwin ap Einion.  Now, with the sons (Maredudd and Hywel) of deceased
king Edwin ap Einion still youngsters, Rhydderch was chosen king of Deheubarth. Edwin had a brother,
Cadell, whose date of death is not known, but if still alive he had been passed over for kingship in 1022 when Rhain made
his claim. Perhaps Cadell was dead, leaving Rhydderch the only adult male with close ties to the royal family. It was
the Irish who were credited for killing him in 1033, but he may have been ousted from Deheubarth by the sons of Edwin
We are not told who came
to the thrones of either Powys or Gwynedd after the death of Llewelyn. His only son was perhaps 12 years old so the
men of Powys had to choose someone to rule until he came of age. Llewelyn's cousins, descended from his father's brother
Selyf II ap Brochwel II, were barely teens.  We believe two candidates for "interim" king were considered by the
men of Powys. One was Cynan ap Seisyll, Llewelyn's younger brother. The other was Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, whose mother
was Nest, only child of former king Cadell ap Brochwel. Although Cynan was a male nephew of Cadell and probably had
the best claim, he was a married man. Cynfyn, on the other hand, was recently widowed. The men of Powys were swayed
by the agreement of Cynfyn to marry Llewelyn's widow and thus become the step-father of young Gruffudd, the true heir.
With those credentials, we think the men of Gwynedd also accepted Cynfyn to rule during the minority of their heir, Iago ap
Cynan ap Seisyll may have
been promised support to contend for the kingship of Deheubarth, although we know of no direct claim he could make. It
is possible that his wife was a daughter of Edwin ap Einion, but no citations identify her. Cynan was killed in
1027 and while his obit does not say who was responsible, some think it was the Deheubarth sons of Edwin.
That guess is bolstered by subsequent events; in 1035, the sons of Cynan killed Maredudd ap Edwin. Thus it does
appear that Cynan involved himself in the quest for Deheubarth after the sons of Edwin ousted Rhydderch ap Iestyn.
During his reign
as king of three territories, we suspect Llewelyn ap Seisyll thought it would be a bit demeaning to two of those kingdoms
if he took up residence at the existing royal manor of any of them. While he likely used the palaces at Mathrafel, Aberffraw
and Dinefwr for his visitations and for ceremonies directly related to Powys, Gwynedd or Deheubarth, he made his seat
and permanent residence at Rhuddlan in Tegeingl.
In the Appendices below,
we recap the kingly succession from 940-1040 in all 3 of Llewelyn's kingdoms.
 See the paper "End of the Powys Dynasty"
under "The Royal Family of Powys" elsewhere on this site
 "Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales", 1870, pp 693-695
 Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1873, pp 61-63
 "History of Wales", 2nd edition, 1912, vol I, pp 346-347
 op cit Note 1
 Dwnn i, 310, 319, 326; Dwnn ii, 54, 249
 The eldest son of Cadell's oldest brother
 ABT 7f
 The ByT entry actually says the men slain in 942 were Idwal ap Rhodri
and his brother Elisedd. Most authorities believe the brothers were sons of Anarawd ap Rhodri since, if not, the Brut
wholly fails to record the obit of Idwal Foel
 The killer of Cynan ap Hywel is not identified, but the only other eligible
claimant to Gwynedd was Idwal ap Elisedd, father of Iago
 The male name Blegywryd is rare, but one such man is known among the descendants
of Tudwal Gloff: Blegywryd ap Dyfnwal, a brother of Bran ap Dyfnwal and uncle of Llywarch ap Bran. Alser ap Tudwal had
a son named Dyfnwal and may have had another named Blegywryd.
 This event is not recorded, but if Aeddan did take the Gwynedd kingship,
whoever had held it must have died or been killed. The year this occurred is simply our guess but we think Idwal ap
Elisedd was alive as late as 1014 when we think his son Cynan was born.
 Rhodri Mawr ruled only Gwynedd, but had formed a military alliance
with the kings of neighboring lands to combat Saxon invasions. Hywel Dda and Maredudd ap Owain had briefly ruled
both Deheubarth and Gwynedd, but neither ever attempted or succeeded in taking Powys.
 Dr David Powel, in his "History of Wales" says that Llewelyn ap Seisyll
was killed by Hywel and Maredudd ap Edwin ap Einion of Deheubarth, but no ancient source confirms that statement. We
reject it on the grounds that these sons of Edwin were, in 1023, not yet old enough to become kings. We think
those men did kill Cynan ap Seisyll in 1027.
 Refer to the paper "Two Families Headed by a Rhydderch ap Iestyn" elsewhere
on this site. The other Rhydderch was a man of Gwent
 Brochwel III ap Aeddan III ap Selyf II was born c. 1005, while Gruffudd
II ap Beli II ap Selyf II was born c. 1015